(CMR) Hurricane Ian battered western Cuba on Tuesday after making landfall as a Category 3 hurricane. Cuba's tobacco-rich Pinar del Rio province reportedly lost power as floodwater covered fields.
The hurricane is now heading to Florida, where it is expected to affect the entire state. Ian, a Category 3 storm packing sustained winds of 115 mph, was over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico around 11 a.m. ET, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Hundreds of thousands of Floridians faced mandatory evacuation orders as the National Hurricane Center expanded the hurricane warning along more than 150 miles of the state's Gulf Coast. Power outages can be expected statewide, Florida Power & Light warned.
Parts of Central Florida could see 12-16 inches of rain with 2 feet possible in isolated areas, the hurricane center said. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said there was potential for “historic” storm surge and flooding.
“In some areas, there will be catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge. Because of the size of the storm, it's kicking up a lot of surges. The Gulf is going to be very angry as this comes in,” he said.
DeSantis warned that flooding was likely across much of west Florida. He also raised the possibility of a weakening Ian continuing to march across Central Florida after landfall before exiting along the state's Atlantic Coast.
The continued shift in the projected path Tuesday prompted the NHC to extend the hurricane warning along Florida's west coast farther south from Bonita Beach up to the Anclote River near Tarpon Springs, including all of Tampa Bay as well as the Dry Tortugas. A Hurricane Watch was issued for North of Anclote River to the Suwannee River and Bonita Beach south to Chokoloskee.
Much of Central Florida, including Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, and Seminole counties, are now under a tropical storm warning, while Volusia is under a tropical storm watch.